Let me quickly say: I don’t believe any writer should be following trends. That’s not what this post is about. However, I do believe that writers who want to get published traditionally need to have their eyes open to what the market is doing.
Why You Don’t Follow Trends
- Trends are something that no one can predict–especially when they end and you don’t want to be on the tail end of something when the booksellers are no longer stocking that “thing.”
- Trends are established years before anyone knows about them. With the year(s) of writing, contract negotiation, and production, by the time a book comes out it’s either starting a trend or with a trend that you have no idea about until it’s on the market. Therefore, trends are started 2 years prior.
- Following a trend is a quick way to date yourself and risk unoriginality.
- Agents aren’t looking for trend followers; we’re looking for writers who have something unique to say about the world, even if that type/genre of story has been done before (romance, historical etc).
Why You Follow The Market
- To me, follow the market means reading industry news sites, going to the bookstore a lot, talking to librarians and booksellers, and/or joining a book club. Plus, reading a ton!
- Write for the market means to have your eyes and ears open to what’s selling and what people want to read. Do your own market research as I mentioned above.
- The market is the group of people that would potentially buy your book. Do you know who they are?
- The marketplace is where your book is sold. Do you know which books are being chosen as “staff picks” and “recommended reads”?
Why You Still Write For You
- If you write for trends, are you really writing for you? Is being a follower going to be the thing that gets you up in the morning? Is chasing something the right way to hone your craft?
- Usually, most writers I know, get excited when they’re doing something special to them. Something that’s unique to them.
At the end of the day, the special books are the ones that stand out in the market and start trends. The books that are well-crafted and speak to people like few books do. So, the bottom line is that you have to write for you because you have to work on that craft. You can’t move readers until you’ve understood how to exercise your talent.
For more on this, read a great interview between editor Lee Boudreaux and LitHub.
Q: How do you conduct your “market research” as a writer?
So often general fiction writers cop out with: “my market is the general public and everyone that buys books!”
Unfortunately, that does not work in 2012.
Every work of fiction has a market and it’s unfair to yourself to think that yours eludes all need for market research. How are you going to market your book if you don’t know who is actually going to do the buying?
The best use of your time is doing research and targeting those who purchase books similar to yours, rather than blasting the internet with information that does not pertain to the majority.
Do you want to sell copies? Find your market and pitch them.
How to find and learn about your market:
- Start a newsletter subscription on your blog or website so people interested in your material can sign up to learn more. Develop content they care about and they’ll look forward to buying your book.
- Acquire blogger lists featuring blogs and sites that attract the most visitors and spread the word through reviews and interviews. Bloggers get tons of requests so play nice and be generous.
- Use social media to find communities that revolve around books in your space. Be an active member of that community and they’ll be happy to support and tout your book to others.
- Build your own community through Twitter, Good Reads and Pinterest.
- Pick 5 themes or topics that relate to your book and write articles for those readers. Pitch the respective blogs, websites, magazines and newspapers. (This is a great tip from book marketing guru Dan Blank)
- Get early reviews and endorsements from those well-known in your genre
Spending time, money and energy finding these pockets of people is a greater return on your investment.
With all the submissions I get I use my intuition and my checklist to see how they fare. While it is mostly gut reaction I need the checklist to balance out my feelings so I can best evaluate the content and quality of the material I’m looking at.
I’ve received some great queries lately so if you want to know how to get from the query stage to me interested in taking your work further I share my checklist showing what I look for when I read your work:
- Does the beginning work? Does the ending work?
- Does the plot have good pace, does it make sense, and is it a natural outcome for the premise?
- Do I care about the outcome of the characters?
- Do the characters stick to their traits?
- How many subplots are there? Do they have appropriate attention with what you’ve set out to do in the novel?
- Is the writing of high, lasting quality?
- Is it special? Will it stand out on an editor’s desk and in a bookshop? Continue reading My Manuscript Evaluation Checklist